Scene 5 Metaphor Paragraph


In Shakespeare’s works, he uses metaphors to convey an image or idea that isn’t literal but is easily understood by the person reading or watching.  Metaphors are when a word or phrases is applied to an object or action.  An example of this technique in use is in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  In Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth’s dialogue includes several different metaphors. “And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full Of direst cruelty!”.  Here, Lady Macbeth refers to herself being some sort of vessel, with which cruelty will fill like a vial filled with poison It gives the viewer an immediate sense of  Lady Macbeth acting as a vial and being filled with the direst cruelty and having no other feelings or thoughts that aren’t cruel or evil. This is supporting the plan for her to kill King Duncan while he stays at the castle.
Shakespeare uses this idea of Lady Macbeth being a vessel on a few different occasions. Earlier on in Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says “Hie thee hither/That I may pour my spirits in thine ear”.  This also conveys Lady Macbeth being a vessel and pouring her evil thoughts into Macbeth’s ear. Another use of this ‘vessel’ idea is when Lady Macbeth says “Come to my woman’s breasts/And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers”. She wants her breasts to be filled with gall, a bitter poison, that can take away a life, instead of milk, which gives life. She is wanting to be filled with something, which takes us back to the vessel/vial theme which is now a recurring idea that Lady Macbeth is a vial of poison.
Lady Macbeth contains a lot of frustration towards her situation because of her gender. A widely held belief of the time is that a woman is the inferior gender and the domestic role of society. In the 11th century, Women were to bear children and tend to the husband and house.  In Macbeth, Shakespeare is using Lady Macbeth’s character to fight this idea.
Lady Macbeth is the wife of Macbeth and the audience should expect that she will have no control over the events taking place because of her role in society. Her character is craving power and she presents herself as being strong-minded, powerful and not at all the weak, incapable woman of her time. But, she wishes to be unsexed, which means her gender changed to a man’s so that she doesn’t have the disadvantages that she faces as a woman To the viewer, Lady Macbeth is playing with fire, she is going to play the role of the simple housewife when she faces the King but under her facade, is planning to murder him.

One Comment

  1. There’s a lot to praise about this analysis. You’ve taken the time to contextualise your analysis both in terms of the wider events of the play and the intention of Shakespeare.

    There’s possibly a missing co-ordinating thread. The ‘vessel’ that is described in this extended metaphor is essential a vial of poison. She’s turning herself into an instrument of evil. I think the choice to call it a ‘jug’ is probably unhelpful. How about the word ‘vial’.

    And then, once you’ve used that word, you could look more into why Shakespeare chose poison rather than, say, a sword. Is poison an honourable weapon?



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